Second Arbitration Decision Goes Against Arisia

Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President of Arisia, Inc., reports the other shoe has dropped — the group will owe another large amount from the Westin arbitration decision on top of the penalties already due to the Aloft/Marriott (“Arisia Suffers Reverse in Contract Dispute with Aloft”). The liabilities resulted from the Boston convention’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels for their 2019 event.

Shectman’s statement tells the precise liability owed to the Aloft, and the amount of the judgment in the Westin case.

This morning, the Executive Board received notice of the fees and interest due to the Aloft in addition to the $44,417.50 award. These total $16,731.71.

This afternoon, the Executive Board was informed that the ADR with the Westin was decided against us. Judgment was set at $50,000 plus fees and interest, exact amount still unknown but probably similar to the Aloft.

This, combined with the loss in the Aloft case, presents Arisia with obligations that far exceed our reserves and expected immediate income. Whether this is a loss in excess of what Arisia can manage depends a great deal on what terms of payment can be agreed. Paying $125,000 is impossible now, but might be possible over some number of years, even with interest.

The Eboard is continuing to consult with legal counsel and attempting to negotiate with Marriott in order to clarify exactly what our options are and what the costs of these options would be. We will keep the membership informed as the situation develops further.

We recognize and appreciate our community’s willingness to support us with additional dollars. Fundraising is likely to be a part of any scenario. We should have more information there within a few weeks. Fundraising details will depend on pending legal questions, so we would prefer not to speculate on what shape that will take until then.

This matter will certainly be discussed at the upcoming corporate meeting on August 22nd. At this time, the Eboard has no motion or recommendation that it plans to bring. Until we learn otherwise, nothing is off the table.

We would also like to thank the Arisia community for its continued support through the uncertain days ahead.  Your enthusiasm is why we do this, and we couldn’t do it without you.

 — Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President, Arisia Inc.

State Judge Awards Peter S. Beagle $332K in Damages

A California court has ruled in favor of Peter S. Beagle about most of his claims in a suit against former manager Connor Cochran, and awarded him $332,500 in damages.

In a decision handed down June 21, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Michael M. Markman found that Beagle proved his claims against Cochran for financial elder abuse, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and defamation. But the judge disallowed claims for elder abuse based on acts resulting in mental suffering, and conversion (of assets). He awarded Beagle $7,500 for defamation, and $325,000 on the remaining claims. The judge awarded no punitive damages. He did grant Beagle reasonable attorney’s fees in an amount to be determined.

Peter S. Beagle sued Cochran in 2015 for $52 million in damages, disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, and dissolution of two corporations he co-owns with Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc. The claims against the corporate entities were not part of this trial, being subject to the automatic stay of litigation that went into effect when Cochran and his companies filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 4, 2018 (the day before the state trial was originally scheduled to begin.) The U.S. Bankruptcy Court later granted Beagle’s motion to partially lift the automatic stay and allow his suit against Cochran as an individual to proceed in state court.

While permitting the state trial to proceed, the Bankruptcy Court withheld permission to execute on any judgment pending its own order. Therefore, action cannot be immediately taken to collect the latest award of damages.

Judge Markman’s 17-page decision is informative about the court’s evaluation of the parties and issues.

While explaining his finding that there was elder abuse in financial terms, Judge Markman characterized defendant Cochran in these terms:

B. Elder Abuse Based on “Constructive Fraud”

“…The Court finds that Cochran assisting in taking Beagle’s intellectual property was for a wrongful use and with the intent to defraud Beagle. To better understand why, a few comments concerning Cochran’s demeanor at trial are in order Cochran presents as an extremely intelligent, articular, overly-aggressive hustler and pitch-man. Cochran’s written work product attempting to promote Beagle’s work is written as Cochran speaks – with a flair for the dramatic that is at best loosely based in truth. As byt one example, Cochran prepared pitch materials for Beagle purporting to estimate the value of Beagle’s intellectual property exceeding $15 billion. While Beagle’s work is certainly valuable, and Beagle likely found the idea in Cochran’s pitch that it was worth that much money to be pretty flattering, there is nothing that might suggest his intellectual property is worth that figure. Cochran also began holding himself out as a specialist in handling business affairs for older authors.

“Cochran’s work with Beagle unquestionably made Cochran Beagle’s fiduciary. Cochran served as Beagle’s business manager for many years. The testimony made clear that the two men shared an important friendship. The Court was convinced that Cochran really did believe he had Beagle’s best interests in mind when working for Beagle. Cochran was convinced that he needed to take care of Beagle’s finances, rationing cash and paying bills, and to otherwise help Beagle with day-to-day tasks (most of which involved money.)

“At a certain point, however, the evidence reflects that Cochran allowed his role as the trusted advisor to get the better of him. He crossed the line from business manager to over-paternalistic friend, exercising a surprising degree of control over Beagle’s finances and, in effect, Beagle’s life. His own testimony reveals that he had convinced himself that controlling Beagle was in Beagle’s best interests because he viewed Beagle as a spendthrift (and Beagle viewed himself that way). He also convinced himself that only he could rescue Beagle and transform Beagle’s works into an intellectual property mega-estate. And, Cochran convinced himself, he should benefit accordingly.”

This was one of the claims for which damages have been awarded.

However, Judge Markman said a second claim of elder abuse on other grounds of intentionally inflicting emotional distress was unproven.

B. Elder Abuse By Acts Resulting in Mental Suffering

“…Plaintiff has not proven a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, Plaintiff did not show that Cochran’s outrageous conduct – directed at Plaintiff himself – was taken with “the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress.”…In order to be “outrageous,” the conduct ‘must be so extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community.’ …Cochran’s financial mismanagement, and his expressions of concern to Beagle’s friends and relatives for Beagle’s mental health and use of alcohol, do not rise to the level required by California law for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.”

“Cochran appears to have taken on a central role in managing Beagle’s funds, initially at Beagle’s request. But the evidence does not indicate that Cochran’s behavior relating to administering those funds triggered mental suffering for Beagle. Additionally, Beagle was apparently transferring funds at an alarming rate to his then-girlfriend, which Beagle would alternatively say she was using to visit a clinic or to gamble, or else would deny that he had made entirely. These transactions make it difficult to lay the cause of Beagle’s mental anxiety at Cochran’s feet.”

The court also explained why damages were awarded for the claims of fraud, defamation, and breach of fiduciary duty.

C. Fraud

“…Specifically, Beagle testified that Cochran affirmatively misled him concerning their respective ownership interests in Avicenna. He also testified that Cochran failed to disclose the Bylaws to Beagle, which would have established that Cochran controlled the company rather than the two parties sharing an ownership interest in its assets (Cochran contests this, and testified he did provide a copy of the Bylaws to Beagle).,,,

“…Even if Cochran had disclosed the Bylaws to Beagle, and Beagle lost them or does not recall, Cochran’s affirmative statements to Beagle concerning their equal relationship in Avicenna until he filed suit was highly credible….”

D. Defamation

“…Beagle has established by at least a preponderance of evidence that Cochran’s statements that Beagle had dementia were false, and Cochran knew they were false when made….

“….Cochran’s statements regarding Beagle’s memory in general, rather than his statements concerning dementia, appear to have been based on fact; they are not actionable….

“…Additionally, Beagle has an observable tendency to state things as fact even when he cannot recall the event(s) on which they are based….  The Court observed Beagle mixing up events in his testimony on more than one occasion during the course of the trial.”

E. Breach of Fiduciary Duty

“…Cochran obtained an unfair advantage as a result of his work as Beagle’s fiduciary. Among other things, Cochran transferred a substantial amount of money to himself to pay personal expenses….”

However, when it came to the claim of conversion, the court said part of that issue involved actions by Avicenna Corporation over which it did not currently have jurisdiction, while the plaintiff’s charge of conversion of the corpus of a trust created by Beagle’s mother was not proven.

F. Conversion

“…Beagle himself assisted in making Cochran the trustee of The Rebecca S. Beagle Trust. There is no indication that Cochran gained that role as a result of fraud or elder abuse….”

Further developments in the case await action by U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

 [Thanks to Nick Mamatas for the story.]

Court Rules Star Trek/Seuss Mashup Is Copyright Fair Use

ComicMix was the winner today when a Federal judge decided the remaining copyright issues in Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ suit to stop the Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! project.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) had claimed the crowdfunded book, featuring the writing of David Gerrold and the art of Ty Templeton, infringed their copyright and trademark for Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! A court ruling in May 2018 disposed of DSE’s trademark claims, but the copyright claims remained to be litigated.

In granting ComicMix’s motion for summary judgment U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino explained: “Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that there is ‘no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.’”  

ComicMix argued there was no copyright infringement because Boldly is fair use, and under applicable caselaw “the doctrine of ‘fair use’ shields from infringement particular uses of a copyrighted work.” 

Judge Sammartino wrote that Congress set forth four non-exclusive factors for use in evaluating whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is fair: 

(1) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner explained the judge’s analysis of this factor in his story:

In an attempt to foreclose a successful fair use defense, Dr. Seuss Enterprises pointed to the Federal Circuit’s 2018 decision in Oracle America, Inc. v. Google. That case deals with copyrighted Java API code and whether Google infringes when it makes its own version intended to allow software programs to communicate with each other. It’s a high-stakes battle that has a good shot of being taken up by the Supreme Court. When it comes to the purpose and character of Boldly, Dr. Seuss analogizes the book to what Google did with Java.

“The Court does not find Oracle persuasive,” responds the judge, addressing what she sees as the key distinction. “in Oracle, the Defendants copied the 37 SE API packages wholesale, while in Boldly ‘the copied elements are always interspersed with original writing and illustrations that transform Go!’s pages into repurposed, Star-Trek-centric ones.’ Defendants did not copy verbatim text from Go! in writing Boldly, nor did they replicate entire illustrations from Go! Although Defendants certainly borrowed from Go!—at times liberally—the elements borrowed were always adapted or transformed. The Court therefore concludes, as it did previously that Defendants’ work, while commercial, is highly transformative.”

(2) The nature of the copyrighted work;

The judge finds that the factor of the nature of the copyrighted work — Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go — slightly favors the plaintiff before addressing the amount and substantiality of the portion used.

(3) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

Judge Sammartino said that she considered the situation in the current case to be comparable to a suit about a poster created to advertise Naked Gun 33-1/3: The Final Insult:

Although the Court ultimately concluded that Boldly was not a parody, the Court concludes that this csse is most analogous to the situation in Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp. In Leibovitz, the defendant was alleged to have infringed a famous photograph of a nude, pregnant  Demi  Moore  that  appeared on the cover of the August 1991 issue of Vanity Fair. The photo of Ms. Moore was itself “a well known pose evocative of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.”

As part  of  an  advertising  campaign  for  an  upcoming  movie,  the  defendant  commissioned  a  photographer  to  take  a  photo  of  another  nude,  pregnant  woman  in  a  similar  pose,  and  “[g]reat effort was made to ensure that the photograph resembled in metic ulous detail the one  taken  [of  Ms.  Moore]  by  [the  plaintiff],”  from  the  model’s  posture  to  her  hand  placement to the use of a large ring on the same finger.  The defendant’s photograph was then digitally enhanced using a computer to make the skin tone  and body shape more closely resemble that of Ms. Moore in the plaintiff’s original photo.  Leslie Nielsen’s face was superimposed on the model’s body, “with his jaw and eyes positioned roughly  at  the  same  angle  as  Moore’s,  but  with  her  serious  look  replaced  by  Nielsen’s mischievous smirk.”  The finished poster advertised that the movie was “DUE THIS MARCH.” 

The Second Circuit stressed that, “[i]n assessing the amount and substantiality of the portion used, [the court] must focus only on the protected elements of the original.”  Consequently,  the  court  reasoned,  the  plaintiff  “is  entitled  to  no  protection  for  the  appearance in her photograph of the body of a nude, pregnant female,” but rather  only  “the  particular  way  the  body  of  Moore  is  portrayed.”   

The  court  clarified that, “[e]ven though the basic pose of a nude, pregnant body and the position of the hands, if ever protectable, were placed into the public domain by painters and sculptors long before Botticelli, [the plaintiff] is entitled to protection for such artistic elements as the particular lighting, the resulting skin tone of the subject, and the camera angle that she selected.” The court ultimately concluded that the defendant “took more of the [plaintiff’s] photograph than was minimally necessary to conjure it up, but” that there was “little, if any, weight against fair use so long as the first and fourth factors favor the” defendant. 

As in Leibovitz, the Court must take care in distinguishing precisely those elements of the Copyrighted Works to which Plaintiff is entitled copyright protection.  Examining the cover of each work, for example, Plaintiff may claim copyright protection in the unique, rainbow-colored  rings  and  tower  on  the  cover  of  Go!  Plaintiff,  however,  cannot  claim  copyright over any disc-shaped item tilted at a particular angle; to grant Plaintiff such broad protection would foreclose a photographer from taking a photo of the Space Needle just so, a result that is clearly untenable under —and antithetical to—copyright law.  But  that  is  essentially  what  Plaintiff  attempts  to  do  here.    Instead  of  replicating  Plaintiff’s rainbow-ringed  disc,  Defendants  drew  a  similarly-shaped  but  decidedly  non-Seussian  spacecraft—the  USS  Enterprise—at  the  same  angle  and  placed  a  red-and-pink striped planet where the larger of two background discs appears on the original cover. Boldly’s cover also features a figure whose arms and hands are posed similarly to those of Plaintiff’s narrator and who sports a similar nose and eyes,  but Boldly’s narrator has clearly been replaced by Captain Kirk, with his light, combed-over hair and gold shirt with black trim, dark trousers, and boots. Captain Kirk stands on a small moon or asteroid above the Enterprise  and,   although  the  movement of the moon evokes the tower or tube pictured on Go! ’s cover, the resemblance is  purely  geometric.   

Finally,  instead  of  a  Seussian  landscape,  Boldly’s  cover  is appropriately set in space, prominently featuring stars and planets. In short, “portions of the old work are incorporated into the new work but emerge imbued with a different character.” 

(4) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Hollywood Reporter summarized the court’s take on the last factor:

When it comes to Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!, the judge concludes that it isn’t likely usurp its predecessor’s position in the children’s book market because ComicMix has targeted those familiar with both the Seuss and Trek canon with a work that includes some sexual innuendo (hello, Captain Kirk). The derivatives market is called a “closer question,” but the judge notes that Dr. Seuss has “introduced no evidence tending to show that it would lose licensing opportunities or revenues as a result of publication of Boldly or similar works.”

Judge Sammartino, finding this factor did not favor either party, invoked the Supreme Court’s statement in Fogerty v. Fantasy Inc. to justify ruling for ComicMix:

The Supreme Court has admonished, “[t]he primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but ‘to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’   To this end, copyright  assures  authors  the  right  to  their  original  expression,  but encourages  others  to  build  freely  upon  the  ideas  and  information  conveyed  by  a  work.”   

Following the ruling an attorney for the losing side, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said the group was “considering all of its options, including an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit.”

The text of today’s decision also revealed ComicMix originally planned to follow up Boldly with two other Suess/Trek mashups, “Picard Hears A Q” and “One Kirk, Two Kirk, Red Shirt, Blue Shirt,” whose fate is now uncertain.

[Thanks to Eric Franklin for the story.]

Ed Kramer Charged with Parole Violation, Back In Jail, Computers Seized

Ed Kramer, Dragon Con co-founder, has been arrested and jailed on a parole violation, accused of taking a picture of a child without the parents’ consent. Some news sources describe the child as a boy, another as a girl.

According to the Gwinett Daily Post’s story “Convicted sex offender, DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer back in jail”

Kramer was arrested by Lawrenceville Police Department officers on Tuesday, five days after he was accused of taking photos of a boy believed to be seven years old, an incident report said.

According to the report, officers were dispatched to Gwinnett Pulmonary Group after receiving a call that Kramer, after leaving a doctor’s appointment, remained in the check-out area and was watching the boy.

“He was later seen watching the child and holding his cell phone in a manner that suggested that he was photographing (the) child,” the report said. “The complainant stated that she observed the flash of the camera and she stated that (Kramer’s) eyes never left the boy.”

Atlanta TV station 11Alive aired a report with police bodycam video showing the arrest.

Gwinett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who’s been involved with Kramer’s case for years, spoke to WSB TV reporter Tony Thomas (“DragonCon co-founder took pictures of child inside doctor’s office, police say”):

Porter… said he’s not surprised Kramer has been arrested again. 

“It’s the case that never ends,” Porter said. “I knew it was never going to end.”

Kramer was sentenced years ago, but Porter has kept the files against Kramer nearby. 

In the past, Kramer was sentenced to five years of house arrest on three counts of child molestation. He was released in December.  

… Authorities are now trying to revoke his probation and a judge could resentence him on his original conviction. He could face up to 55 years in prison.  

Porter said police found several computers and storage devices in Kramer’s Duluth home and are still going through them. 

“Any indication there are other instances out there?” Thomas asked Porter. 

“There isn’t at this time,” Porter said. “I think once we get into a forensic analysis of the computers and the storage media, there may be something there.”

Kramer will be back in court Thursday as authorities try to quickly schedule a probation revocation hearing to get him moved into state custody.

Kramer’s bond for the most recent charges is set at $22,200. As of Wednesday afternoon, he remained in jail.

Kramer pleaded to three counts of child molestation in 2013 as trial was set to begin in Gwinnett County, entering an Alford-type plea as provided under Georgia case law in which he agreed to the conviction even though he still claimed innocence. Kramer agreed to pay damages to the victims and was sentenced to serve a term of confinement at home.

In December 2017 the state of Georgia’s Sexual Offender Registration Review Board (SORRB) designated Kramer a “sexually dangerous predator,” the ranking with the highest perceived risk for recidivism. Georgia law requires “SDPs” to be monitored by GPS for the rest of their lives.

Kramer co-founded DragonCon in 1987 but has not been involved in the operation of the convention since 2000 when he was arrested for the alleged molestations. However, he retained part ownership of Dragon Con until July 2013, when he was bought out by the organization, four months prior to his guilty plea.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Court Rules Against Del Arroz on Four Issues in Lawsuit Against Worldcon 76, Allows Litigation to Continue on a Fifth

In today’s hearing on Jonathan Del Arroz v. S.F. Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark H. Pierce issued a tentative ruling tossing four out of the five causes of action in Del Arroz’s lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation. A fifth complaint, defamation, remains before the court.

Del Arroz sued SFSFC last April after the Worldcon 76 committee announced he would not be allowed to attend the convention (“Del Arroz Files Suit Against Worldcon 76”; “We have taken this step because he has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct….”)

The five causes of action asserted in Del Arroz’s complaint were: (1) Violation of California Civ. Code §51 (Unruh Act, claiming discrimination based on “political affiliation and political beliefs”); (2) Violation of Civ. Code §51.5 (also a law against various forms of discrimination); (3) Violation of Civ. Code §51.7, the Bane Civil Rights Act, a law which protects against “violence, or intimidation by threat of violence” because of a political affiliation (or other arbitrary discrimination); (4) Violation of Civ. Code §52.1 (the Ralph Civil Rights Act); and (5) Defamation.

SFSFC’s attorney Ann G. Nguyen filed demurrer motions against the first four causes on October 11. A ‘demurrer’ motion is one objecting to a pleading by the opposite side, claiming opposing counsel’s claimed facts weren’t sufficient to support a cause of action. JDA’s attorney Peter Sean Bradley filed opposition responses with the court earlier this month. (The attorneys previously shared their positions in correspondence.) Nguyen also filed an Anti-SLAPP motion against the fifth cause of action.

The court sustained SFSFC’s four demurrers, but denied the Anti-SLAPP motion.

The court ruled that in the first two causes of action Del Arroz had claimed protections that are not part of the law. About the Unruh Act it said —  

Plaintiff has failed to identify any published California decision expressly stating that “political affiliation” is a protected classification for purposes of the Unruh Act and the Court is unaware of any.

…“Political affiliation” is simply not a personal characteristic protected under the Unruh Act.

And about Section 51.5 it said –

The claim fails as a matter of law because, as explained above, “political affiliation” is not a “characteristic listed or defined in subdivision (b) or (e) of Section 51.”

The court ruled against JDA’s third cause of action because there was no threat of violence, the sole support for which was the committee’s email stating that “If you are found on the premises of the convention center or any of the official convention hotels you will be removed.”

The Court concludes that a reasonable person would not have perceived the Jan. 2, 2018 email from Lori Buschbaum as a threat of violence. Leave to amend is DENIED as the defect cannot be cured without contradicting the existing factual allegations that the sole basis for the claim is the January 2, 2018 email from Lori Buschbaum.

Likewise, the court concluded the fourth cause failed to show any violation of the Ralph Civil Rights Act —

Under no circumstances could this be objectively construed as a threat of violence against a specific person (Plaintiff) made by a person (Lori Buschbaum) with the apparent ability to carry out such a threat.

SFSFC’s Anti-SLAPP motion to strike the fifth cause of action, defamation, was denied by the court. SLAPP refers to a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” a suit intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. California law counters SLAPPs by allowing a defendant to make a special motion to strike a complaint when it arises from conduct that falls within the rights of petition or free speech.

To receive protection under the anti-SLAPP statute, SFSFC had to show that its statement why Del Arroz wouldn’t be allowed to attend the Worldcon was “made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest.” If they satisfied those conditions, then JDA would have to prove there is a probability he would succeed with his defamation claim. However, the court decided that while SFSFC made its statement in a public forum, this was not “an issue of public interest.”

Defendant’s special motion to strike the fifth cause of action for defamation is DENIED for failure to meet the initial burden to establish that Plaintiff’s defamation claim is based on its protected activity. Defendant’s publicly accessible web site and social media sites do constitute “public forums” for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute.

However Defendant has failed to establish that its statement that Plaintiff had been barred from the convention because of “racist” and “bullying” behavior (and this is the only reasonable interpretation of Defendant’s statement) concerned a matter of public interest.

…Defendant’s evidence (in particular the declarations of Kevin Roche and Charles Serface) fails to establish that its statement regarding Plaintiff was made in the context of an “ongoing controversy, dispute or discussion,” of interest to a definable, measurable portion of the public. At best Defendant’s evidence shows that Plaintiff engaged in online arguments with a handful of identified persons in which he used disparaging insults (but notably not any clearly racist ones). This evidence does not support Defendant’s “public controversy” argument with any actual evidence that any sizable portion of Defendant’s claimed membership of 7,812 persons (let alone the “science fiction community as a whole,” which Defendant fails to even define much less explain how its awareness and engagement could be or were measured) was even aware of Plaintiff’s identity, much less his disagreements with a handful of identified persons or with Defendant as an organization and was engaged in a discussion about the subject before Defendant’s January 4, 2018 announcement that Plaintiff had been banned from attending the convention because “racist and bullying behavior is not acceptable,” clearly referring to some (unidentified) behavior of Plaintiff.

Because the Court finds that Defendant has not met its burden on the first step of the analysis, it is not necessary for the Court to address the second step.

The tentative ruling will dispose of the first four causes of action unless Del Arroz appeals, and the case will continue with just the defamation claim.

Amazon Reopens Castalia House’s KDP Account

Castalia House’s Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing account was restored yesterday within hours after Vox Day told readers it had been taken down (see “Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account”.) The problems were caused by Castalia’s Collapsing Empire parody Corrosion by “Johan Kalsi” with the look-alike cover, which has brought Day’s business into conflict with Amazon’s rules many times since the book came out in 2017.

Collapsing Empire author John Scalzi seems to have had this news in mind when he tweeted on Thursday —

Although the Amazon account was reopened, Markku Koponen of Finland, where the Castalia House entity is based, told readers of Vox Day’s blog that the “Kalsi” book will no longer be sold on Amazon.

But the sales had dropped so low on it (because people seem to connect it only with the Scalzi events, which isn’t really fair. Again, it’s an actual, serious book) that removing that tool from them had more value than having the title there. And it’s still available on our own site, from which we keep 100% of the revenue instead of 70%.

And he said they have asked Audible to take down the audiobook.

Vox Day also contacted File 770 “to set the record straight,” saying —

  1. CORROSION by Johan Kalsi was cleared of being “misleading” no less than 7 times by the highest-level managers at KDP. The previous time it was depublished by the Quality Assurance employee, in September 2018, it was republished before we even received the email telling us it had been depublished.
  2. The reason we were given for our account was terminated was a claim of copyright infringement. This claim was incorrect and was subsequently acknowledged to have been incorrect when our account was restored.
  3. What Amazon did yesterday affected more than 60 authors, and any author who was feeling schadenfreude would do well to keep in mind that not every employee at Amazon with access to their account is fully in agreement with them either. We are very far from the first to have our account terminated, even if it was only for 20 hours in our case.
  4. We sold more copies of Corrosion via our direct store yesterday than we had sold in the previous three months on Amazon. We’ve sold even more copies of it today. That is why we decided not to republish it on KDP and why we will remove it from Audible as well. It’s simply not worth the potential conflict.

When one of his fans encouraged him to initiate legal action against Amazon. Vox Day replied —

No. We’re already in a significant legal battle with Indiegogo. We will not take on any additional conflict unless it is forced on us. Nor are we interested in going to war against our own distribution channel.

Day was referring IndieGoGo’s action last October, shutting down Arkhaven’s current fundraiser for Alt-Hero: Q, and refunding backers’ money (see “After Bleeding Cool Interviews Vox Day, IndieGoGo Axes Latest Alt-Hero Comic Campaign”.) Arkhaven is Castalia’s comics imprint.

Pixel Scroll 1/26/19 Sitting On The Dock Of The Pod Bay Door

(1) MANGA AT THE MUSEUM. The British Museum will host an exhibit on “Manga” from May 23-August 26.

Enter a graphic world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.

Manga is a visual narrative art form that has become a multimedia global phenomenon, telling stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds.

Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

For those who haven’t encountered manga before there’s a familiarization post at the Museum’s blog: “Manga: a brief history in 12 works”.

Japanese manga artists find inspiration for their work in daily life, the world around them, and also in the ancient past. Many people are familiar with modern manga, but the art form – with its expressive lines and images – is much older than you might think. …Here is a brief history of Japanese manga in 12 works.

(2) LEFT ON THE BEACH? SYFY Wire springs a little surprise: “Patrick Stewart won’t be a captain on the Picard spinoff series, says Jonathan Frakes”.

The upcoming Picard TV series on CBS All Access will feature one major difference regarding its titular main character played by Patrick Stewart—he won’t be a starship captain. Speaking with Deadline about the current Star Trek revolution being helmed by Discovery showrunner, Alex Kurtzman, actor/director Jonathan Frakes revealed this interesting bit of news.

“Patrick isn’t playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard this time, he’s done with Starfleet in this show. That’s about the only thing I do know about the show,” he said.

(3) VERDICT COMING FOR OPPORTUNITY. NASA has received only silence from Opportunity since contact was lost during a global dust storm on the red planet last June. The agency may soon decide to move on. The New York Times has the story — “‘This Could Be the End’ for NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover”.

…The designers of the spacecraft expected that dust settling out of the Martian air would pile up on the solar panels, and the rovers would soon fail from lack of power. But unexpectedly, gusts of Martian winds have repeatedly provided helpful “cleaning events” that wiped the panels clean and boosted power back up.

In 2009, Spirit became ensnared in a sand trap and stopped communicating in March 2010, unable to survive the Martian winter.

Opportunity continued trundling across the Martian landscape for more than 28 miles. Instead of just 90 Martian days, Opportunity lasted 5,111, if the days are counted up until it sent its last transmission. (A Martin day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)

This time, the dust may have been too thick to be blown away or something else broke on the rover. John L. Callas, the project manager, conceded that hopes were fading. “We’re now in January getting close to the end of the historic dust cleaning season,” he said.

(4) AFROFUTURISM IN DC. The Folger Library in Washington, DC will host a reading with Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, & Airea D. Matthews on February 12 at 7:30 p.m. — “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism”. Tickets available at the link.

Due, Jemisin and Matthews

Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his essay “Black to the Future,”and its meaning has expanded to encompass alternative visions of the future influenced by astral jazz, African-American sci-fi, psychedelic hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, and more. This reading is co-sponsored with PEN/Faulkner Foundation as part of its Literary Conversations series and The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Poetry and Literature Center. 

The reading at the Folger will be preceded by a moderated conversation with all three writers at the Library of Congress. This event is free and will take place at 4 p.m. Register here.

(5) FANTASTIC WOMEN. As part of the celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will present “Fantastic Women” on March 10 in Washington, DC.

Arimah, Link and Machado

Join us in celebrating the work of Lesley Nneka ArimahKelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado, women writers who all use elements of the fantastic in their work, often in ways that allow them to explore crucial themes (power, sexuality, identity, the body) without the constraints imposed by strict realism. These authors play with the boundaries of time and space through short stories and novels, and use their writing to push back against the traditional boundaries of women’s fiction.

(6) KLOOS’ AFTERSHOCKS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak interviewed Marko Kloos and revealed the cover of his new book series which begins with the novel Aftershocks“Sci-fi author Marko Kloos on what it takes to build a brand new solar system”.

…An eye-opening moment for Kloos came when he attended another science fiction workshop: the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, held each year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (Disclaimer — I was an attendee in 2014). The week-long boot camp is engineered to impart science fiction writers with a baseline of astronomy and physics knowledge, with the idea that more scientifically accurate works will in turn help provide readers with better science. “That gave me a lot of ideas that I wanted to put into this series,” he says, “and basically created the solar system from scratch.”

The workshop “taught me all the things I did wrong with Frontlines, which was luckily not a whole lot,” Kloos says, “but there are some whoppers in there, like a colony around a star that does not support a habitable zone.”

(7) BLEAK ENOUGH FOR YOU? Behind a paywall at the Financial Times, John Lanchester argues that Brave New Worlds did a better job than 1984 in predicting the future.

One particular area of Huxley’s prescience concerned the importance of data.  He saw the information revolution coming–in the form of gigantic card-indexes, but he got the gist.  It is amusing to see how many features of Facebook, in particular, are anticipated by Brave New World.  Facebook’s mission statement ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’ sounds a lot like the new world’s motto ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ The world in which we ‘haven’t any use for old things’ dovetails with Mark Zuckerberg’s view that ‘young people are just smarter.’  The meeting room whose name is Only Good News–can you guess whether that belongs to Huxley’s world controller, or Sheryl Sandberg?  The complete ban on the sight of breast feeding is common to the novel and to the website. The public nature of relationship status, the idea that everything should be shared, and the idea that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ are also common themes of the novel and the company–and above all, the idea, perfectly put by Zuckerberg and perfectly exemplifying Huxley’s main theme, that ‘privacy is an outdated norm.’

(8) HAMIT. Francis Hamit, a longtime contributor here, has a new Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/francishamit. He says, “There is s lot of free stuff in the Public area.  Some of it is even science fiction.  Feedback is welcome and the minimum sign-up is $2.25 a month for those who want to support my efforts.”

(9) TERMINATOR REBOOT. Variety has behind-the-scenes video (in English with Hungarian subtitles) from the next Terminator movie (“Arnold Schwarzenegger and the late Andy Vajna Appear in Video From ‘Terminator’ Set”). The movie, currently called just Untitled Terminator Reboot, is said to be coming out 1 November 2019.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Andy Vajna, the Hollywood producer who died earlier this week, have appeared in a just-released video from the set of the latest movie in the “Terminator” franchise, which shot in Hungary last year.

The behind-the-scenes promotional video, posted online by the Hungarian National Film Fund, sees Schwarzenegger and the movie’s director, Tim Miller (“Deadpool”), sing the praises of Budapest as a location, and Vajna complimenting the “Terminator” franchise. It ends with Schwarzenegger saying, “I’ll be back.”

It was Vajna’s last set visit to one of the international productions filming in Hungary, where he served as the government commissioner for the film industry. With partner Mario Kassar, Vajna founded the indie powerhouse Carolco, which produced blockbusters including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the first three “Rambo” films and “Basic Instinct.” He died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74.

(10) AN ANCIENT EASTERCON. Rob Hansen has added a section about “Bullcon – the 1963 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory website THEN “featuring the usual cornucopia of old photos:”

BULLCON the 1963 UK National Science Fiction Convention – the fifth to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. – took place over the weekend of 12th April – 15th April, 1963. It was held at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough (see it today here), as it would also be the following year. Guest of Honour was Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin. In SKYRACK, Ron Bennett reported that: “this was the best attended British Convention to date, with over 130 avid fans gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the British Science Fiction Association.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director of Barbarella which was based on the comic series of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest. Need I note that it starred Jane Fonda in the title role? (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Philip Jose Farmer.  I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. Anyone read them? I know, silly question. I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 70. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint liked these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 40. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His newest novel, Dragon Pearl, riffs off the fox spirit mythology. 

(12) THOUSAND WORLD SPACE FORCES. Stephanie at Holed Up In A Book connected with Yoon Ha Lee — “Weekly Author Fridays featuring Yoon Ha Lee – Author Interview”.

Do you have a writing routine? 
More or less. I get up, walk my cat (or more accurately, she walks me), maybe work on one of the languages I’m trying to learn (French, German, Welsh, Korean, and Japanese), brew myself a cup of tea, then set up in my study. For a long project like a novel, I usually write in Scrivener, although for a shorter project or to mix things up I sometimes write longhand with fountain pen. When I’m working in Scrivener, it gives me a running wordcount. So every 100 words that I write, I go to my bullet journal and write out the phrase, “100 words down, 1,900 words to f***ing go!” “200 words down, 1,800 words to f***ing go!” It’s kind of aggro but it keeps me going? I generally aim for 2,000 words in a writing day. More than that and my brain seizes up. 

(13) ST:D RECAP. Let Camestros Felapton fill you in on the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery: “Discovery: New Eden”.

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other.

(14) ATWOOD. Shelf Awareness reports on “Wi14: Margaret Atwood in Conversation” at a New Mexico conference.

Erin Morgenstern and Margaret Atwood

“I think this is very uplifting. We’re all still in this room. There’s still books, people are still reading them,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and much more, during the breakfast keynote on the second day of Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

“Part of the uptick of books is that’s one of the places people go when they feel under both political and psychological pressure,” Atwood continued. “It is actually quite helpful to know that other people have been through similar things before, and have come out of them.”

Atwood was in conversation with Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus and the upcoming The Starless Sea, and during a wide-ranging, illuminating and often funny discussion, topics ranged from forthcoming novels to blurring genre lines, early book-signing experiences, and past and present reactions to The Handmaid’s Tale.

On the subject of her new novel, The Testaments—the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale coming from Nan Talese/Doubleday on September 10—Atwood joked that her publisher would kill her if she said too much, but she did say that it is set 16 years after the events of the previous book and features three narrators. Beyond that, her publisher “would be very cross” with her.

When asked what led her to return to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale more than 30 years later, Atwood replied that there have “always been a lot of questions asked” about the book, like what happens next and what happens to the main character after the end of the novel. She said that she never answered those questions, because she didn’t know. Writing The Testaments, Atwood explained, was “an exploration of the answers” to those many questions

(15) LITIGATION. The New York Times reports “Jay Asher, Author of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ Files Defamation Lawsuit”. In 2017 Asher was accused of sexual misconduct, and when that went public last year he agreed to stop attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events.

More than a decade ago, Jay Asher’s young adult novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” a dark story about a bullied teenager who kills herself, became an unexpected best-seller. Teachers and librarians around the country embraced the novel as a timely and groundbreaking treatment of bullying and teenage suicide, and the novel went on to sell several million copies. A popular Netflix adaptation set off controversy over its depiction of the causes of suicide, but still drew hordes of new readers to the book, and has been renewed for a third season.

Then, last year, Mr. Asher’s career imploded when he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced that he had violated the professional organization’s anti-harassment policy. The repercussions were swift: His literary agency dropped him, speaking engagements and book signings evaporated, and some bookstores removed his novels from their shelves.

Now Mr. Asher, who denied the allegations, has filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the group’s executive director, Lin Oliver, claiming that Ms. Oliver and the organization made false and defamatory statements about him that torpedoed his career, and caused financial harm and intentional emotional distress.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Checkers? Long since mastered. Chess? Mere child’s play. Go? Can’t you make me work a little?

Now what? StarCraft? Humans down to defeat again. Wired has the story of another victory for robot-kind (partial paywall: “DeepMind Beats Pros at StarCraft in Another Triumph for Bots”).

In London last month, a team from Alphabet’s UK-based artificial intelligence research unit DeepMind quietly laid a new marker in the contest between humans and computers. On Thursday it revealed the achievement in a three-hour YouTube stream, in which aliens and robots fought to the death.

DeepMind’s broadcast showed its artificial intelligence bot, AlphaStar, defeating a professional player at the complex real-time strategy videogame StarCraft II. Humanity’s champion, 25-year-old Grzegorz Komincz of Poland, lost 5-0. The machine-learning-powered software appeared to have discovered strategies unknown to the pros who compete for millions of dollars in prizes offered each year in one of e-sports’ most lucrative games. “It was different from any StarCraft that I have played,” said Komincz, known professionally as MaNa.

[…] Mark Riedl, an associate professor at Georgia Tech, found Thursday’s news exciting but not jaw-dropping. “We were pretty much to a point where it was just a matter of time,” he says. “In a way, beating humans at games has gotten boring.”

(17) WHO NEEDS ROVER? “Rare angel sharks found living off Wales”.

Scientists have found evidence that one of the world’s rarest sharks is alive and well, living off the Welsh coast.

Sightings from fishing boats suggest the mysterious angel shark is present in Welsh waters, although no-one knows exactly where.

The shark’s only established stronghold is the Canary Islands, where the animals have been filmed on the seabed.

Wales could be a key habitat for the critically endangered shark, which is from an ancient and unique family.

(18) INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER. “Obscure words with delightful meanings” — animation: “12 words we don’t want to lose.”

Paul Anthony Jones collects terms that have fallen out of use and resurrects them. We have featured 12 of our favourites in an animation celebrating forgotten phrases. Animation by Darren McNaney.

(19) MARVEL CASTING. The Hollywood Reporter tells about another superhero series: “Marvel’s ‘Vision and Scarlet Witch’ Series Lands ‘Captain Marvel’ Writer”.

The Vision and Scarlet Witch, one of the first series that Marvel Studios will be making for Disney’s streaming service Disney+, has landed a writer and showrunner.

Jac Schaeffer, one of the scribes behind Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel movie, has been tapped to run point on the series that will focus on the two characters that are integral members of the Avengers. She will pen the pilot and executive produce, say sources.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are expected to star in the series, reprising the roles they originated on the big screen.

(20) RETURN TO ROSWELL. Critic Darrell Fienberg covered the mid-January reappearance of this series: “‘Roswell, New Mexico’: TV Review”.

…As The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico is set to premiere, my guess is that audience response to the series’ fitfully immigration-heavy perspective will fall into two camps.

First: “Keep your politics out of my teen-friendly supernatural soaps!” This group of detractors will be frustrated that a series about aliens set in the American Southwest in 2019 would attempt to connect that extreme circumstance to what is actually happening at the border in 2019. Leaving aside that those people may not like or understand science fiction on a very fundamental level, they won’t like Roswell, New Mexico anyway.

Second: “If this is your skid, steer into it!” This’ll be from those who want Roswell, New Mexico to do more with the immigration metaphor or, rather, to approach it better. It’s the thing that makes Roswell, New Mexico relevant as a brand reinvention, so there’s very little purpose in soft-selling it.

(21) DISCONTINUITIES AND OTHER PROBLEMS. Seems it’s never too late to find something wrong with The Original Series: “30 Mistakes In The Original Star Trek Even Trekkies Completely Missed” at ScreenRant. There might even be a Filer who caught this gaffe when it originally aired —

27. SCRIPT SPELLING ERROR

It is always an awkward situation when a movie or TV show spells something wrong in the credits. This can be problematic if an actor’s name is spelled wrong, but as for Star Trek, the word “script” was spelled incorrectly for 13 episodes of season 1.

When giving the crew member George A. Rutter his title, the credits credit him as a “Scpipt” Supervisor. This mistake was eventually fixed on the show, but in the ‘60s, it likely would have cost a lot of money to redo the credits to fix one spelling error. 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Liptak, Francis Hamit, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/19 Mars Ain’t The Kind Of Place To Scroll Your Pixels

(1) SPIDER-MAN. The Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser Trailer is out. Movie hits theaters July 5.

(2) ELGIN’S CONLANG. Rebecca Romney tells LitHub readers about Suzette Haden Elgin — “This Science Fiction Novelist Created a Feminist Language from Scratch”.

Láadan, the conlang in Native Tongue, is distinctive for its feminist philosophy: according to Elgin, it focuses on words that efficiently describe “concepts important to women” and “emotional information.” Importantly, Láadan isn’t meant exclusively for women: rather, it is a language constructed with feminist principles in its marrow. For example, the Láadan word “radíidin” is immediately recognizable as a form of emotional labor, the often invisible work that falls primarily to women…

(3) HEAR FROM AUTHOR OF ASTOUNDING. Illinois Public Media’s program The 21st headlined a historian of sf’s Golden Age: “Chicago Writer Alec Nevala-Lee; Holiday Movies 2018; Producers as Experts”

Science fiction is everywhere in 2018. Not just in the form of our favorite movies, books, or TV shows — but even in the actual technology we use in our daily lives.

But the story of sci-fi goes back decades — long before films like Star Wars or 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 1930s and 40s are known as the Golden Age of science fiction. This era, and the people in it, are the subject of Chicago writer Alec Nevala Lee’s latest book.

It’s called “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.”

And what tied all of these men together is the sci-fi magazine called Astounding, which in many ways helped create the genre.

Alec Nevala-Lee joined us from our studios at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Hear the program at Soundcloud.

(4) BROADWAYCON REDUX. The New York Times ran a heavily photo illustrated report about last weekend’s event devoted to stage musicals: “At BroadwayCon, Fans Get a Curtain Call”.

There were singalongs, fan meetups and workshops, booths jamming two “marketplace” floors, as well as an avalanche of panels dedicated to such topics as portraying Evan Hansen, 25 years of Disney on Broadway, auditioning, the lives of stage managers, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Mean Girls.”

(5) KENYON’S POISONING ALLEGATIONS. The Tennessean covers Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lawsuit against her husband and accomplices: “Author Sherrilyn Kenyon files lawsuit accusing husband of poisoning her”

…It wasn’t until after her husband filed for divorce that Sherrilyn Kenyon had her blood, nails and hair tested for toxins. The tests found her body contained high levels of lithium, tin, barium, platinum and thorium, the lawsuit said.

After her husband moved out, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s health began to improve.

The lawsuit said Lawrence Kenyon and Plump, who had taken on a more involved role helping coordinate Sherrilyn Kenyon’s book-related events and appearances, worked together to sabotage her career by disparaging fans and industry professionals. Their actions, she claimed, led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars and several canceled contracts with her publisher. 

… Kenyon is suing for several causes of action, including assault by poisoning, concerted action aiding and abetting, intentional interference with business relationships and invasion of privacy. 

(6) CLICHÉPUNK. According to Lee Konstantinou, “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction”. As he argues at Slate —

When it first emerged more than 30 years ago, cyberpunk was hailed as the most exciting science fiction of the ’80s. The subgenre, developed by a handful of younger writers, told stories of the near future, focusing on the collision of youth subcultures, new computer technologies, and global corporate dominance. It was only ever a small part of the total SF field, but cyberpunk received an outsize amount of attention. Since then, its characteristic tropes have become clichés. By 1992, they could be hilariously parodied by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash (a novel often mistaken as an example of the subgenre it meant to mock). In 1999, the Wachowskis brought cyberpunk to a mass audience with The Matrix.

Meanwhile, myriad new SF subgenres and microgenres have been discovered or invented, each trying to recapture the excitement cyberpunk once generated. The list is long to the point of parody. There’s steampunk, biopunk, nanopunk, stonepunk, clockpunk, rococopunk, raypunk, nowpunk, atompunk, mannerpunk, salvagepunk, Trumppunk, solarpunk, and sharkpunk (no joke!), among others. Most recently, my Twitter feed has been choked with discussions (and mockery) of hopepunk, after Vox published an article in December announcing its arrival. The term, coined by Alexandra Rowland, was meant to describe fiction that resists dystopian pessimism in favor of “DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.”

(7) REORIENTATION. In December, Sarah Gailey livetweeted watching Top Gun for the first time. The thread starts here.

And that has resulted in Gailey’s post for Tor.com, “Highway to the Danger Zone: The Heterosexual Tragedy of Top Gun – deemed by Soon Lee as possibly the best review of Top Gun ever…

Top Gun is a heartfelt, moving film about one man’s risky dalliance with heterosexuality. Lieutenant Tom “Maverick” Cruise is introduced to the audience as a glistening, patriotic risk-taker. He just wants to be the best Plane Guy he can be. His ambitious Airplane Moves get him all the way to the TOPGUN program, a school for only the coolest plane guys. Everything is going great for Maverick… until the night before classes begin. He arrives at Miramar, where the TOPGUN program is located, as ominous music plays in the background—Maverick, the score informs us, is on the highway to the danger zone.

That very evening, Maverick’s sassy straight friend, Lieutenant j.g. Goose “Goose” Goose, brings him to a straight bar for an evening of exploration. Goose exhorts the tentative Maverick to “have carnal knowledge—of a lady this time—on the premises.”

(8) CANNIZZO OBIT. Dr. John K Cannizzo, husband of author Catherine Asaro, died December 30, 2018 at the age of 61. The family obituary is here.

From Catherine Asaro: I was blessed to have John as my husband for thirty-two years. He truly was a gentle giant with an immense heart and inner strength, the love of my life, the finest human I’ve ever known. I thank all of you who have posted your thoughts here; it helps to ease the great loss of his passing….

From the colleagues of Dr. Cannizzo: …John was a member of the Physics Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, having been at Goddard for 25 years. He was a longtime member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) science team and of the Swift gamma-ray burst telescope….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1913Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, but  I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed it because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. His first SF role as Lost Horizon though uncredited so I don’t trust Wiki on that. He’s the  Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M,  Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1924 Dennis Lynds. He only wrote two sf novels, probably pulp ones at that, Lukan War and The Planets of Death, but I’m intrigued that he also penned eight titles of The Shadow from 1964 to 1967 under the Shadow’s author by-line of Maxwell Grant. He also, and I count this as genre, under the name of Robert Hart Davis penned a number of Man from U.N.C.L.E. Novella that all ran in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 84. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man some forty five years ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years.  So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series. I wrote one that by its title intrigues me — The Feline Wizard! (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 54. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(10) WHAT SFWA’S PRESIDENT DOES. SFWA President Cat Rambo leaves office on June 30, 2019. Before she goes, she’d like to answer the question: “What Does the SFWA President Actually Do?” Here’s an excerpt:

…The President is one of the major faces of the organization, and should be willing to attend events such as the Nebulas and conventions as well as representing SFWA at the other events they’re present at. (When signing up for conventions, I usually pitch a SFWA meeting and/or “What Can SFWA Do For You?” panel, for example.) As such, they do need to bear in mind that anything they say on social media or in interviews may be taken as having “of SFWA” appended to it, whether or not they want it to. The President carries this more than board members, and needs to remember that the membership may interpret something they say jokingly on Twitter as indicating the overall board’s opinion. Having a disclaimer that your opinions are personal and do not represent the organization on places like social media profiles is vital.

A good President will be familiar with the bylaws and OPPM and work to bulletproof the organization against anyone wishing to do it harm. They must work side-by-side with the board, the Executive Director, the Deputy Executive Director, the financial team, and a slew of volunteers and contractors to make sure that SFWA remains true to its mission while growing and adapting to the evolving and ever-changing publishing landscape.

In order to do that, the President needs to keep an eye on what’s going on–which can be difficult at times, given the volunteer nature of the position and the stressors of life. They need to be available to people who need them or arrange someone to cover them when on vacation. But it’s also usually easy to keep up with things and often just a matter of checking in on the discussion boards and e-mail once or twice a day. I do want to note (from experience) that many e-mails are time sensitive and not paying attention can result in holding things up in a frustrating way for other people….

Rambo also sent a link to a “Twitter thread that does a good job of finding SFWA ex-presidents” — https://twitter.com/Catrambo/status/1085209616038821888 

(11) ON THE RECORD. Rob Latham explores the rock and sff connection in “Magic Carpet Rides: Rock Music and the Fantastic”, a review of Jason Heller’s new work for the LA Review of Books.

DURING THE POSTWAR PERIOD, the genres of the fantastic — especially science fiction — have been deeply intertwined with the genres of popular music, especially rock ’n’ roll. Both appeal to youthful audiences, and both make the familiar strange, seeking escape in enchantment and metamorphosis. As Steppenwolf sang in 1968: “Fantasy will set you free […] to the stars away from here.” Two recent books — one a nonfiction survey of 1970s pop music, the other a horror novel about heavy metal — explore this heady intermingling of rock and the fantastic.

As Jason Heller details in his new book Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, the magic carpet rides of the youth counterculture encompassed both the amorphous yearnings of acid rock and the hard-edged visions of science fiction. In Heller’s account, virtually all the major rock icons — from Jimi Hendrix to David Crosby, from Pete Townshend to Ian Curtis — were avid SF fans; not only was their music strongly influenced by Heinlein, Clarke, Ballard, and other authors, but it also amounted to a significant body of popular SF in its own right. As Heller shows, many rock stars were aspiring SF writers, while established authors in the field sometimes wrote lyrics for popular bands, and a few became rockers themselves. British fantasist Michael Moorcock, for example, fronted an outfit called The Deep Fix while also penning songs for — and performing with — the space-rock group Hawkwind (once memorably described, by Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, as “Star Trek with long hair and drugs”).

(12) THOSE DAYS AT CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA. At the link is a 3-minute preview of “The Dream Pioneers: Visionaries of Science Fiction”, a 2000 documentary. The clip includes LASFSians Forry Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, and Walt Daugherty.

This program looks at the careers and manifold influence of The Los Angeles Science-Fiction League’s most famous members: Forrest J. Ackerman, the mainspring of the group, who coined the term “Sci-Fi”; Ray Bradbury, renowned author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451; and Ray Harryhausen, master of stop-motion animation. Extended interviews with all three men and the numerous filmmakers, special effects artists, and NASA researchers they have inspired illuminate how so many of their dreams have become reality.

(13) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. David Gerrold announced on Facebook he has made his collaboration with Ctein available as a free read on Dropbox.

The deadline for Nebula nominations is only one month away. For some shameful reason, “Bubble and Squeak” by Ctein and myself is not on the SFWA recommended reading list.

To make up for that serious lack of attention, once again, I am making the story available for all readers, but especially members of SFWA who might think the story is worth reading and possibly even worthy of award consideration.

(14) A LITTLE LUNAR AGRICULTURE. “China’s Moon mission sees first seeds sprout” – BBC has the story.

Seeds taken up to the Moon by China’s Chang’e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration.

It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration.

…Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.

(15) SPOTS GET IN YOUR EYES. “Driverless car laser ruined camera”.

A man who took a photograph of a driverless car on display at the CES tech fair says his camera was damaged as a result.

Jit Ray Chowdhury noticed purple spots on all his photographs after taking a photo of a lidar laser scanning system displayed by San Francisco firm AEye.

He says the $1,198 (£930) Sony camera was one month old and the firm has offered to buy him a replacement.

AEye said its system is not harmful to human eyes.

(16) BIGGER BOSONS. BBC reports “Cern plans even larger hadron collider for physics search”.

Cern has published its ideas for a £20bn successor to the Large Hadron Collider, given the working name of Future Circular Collider (FCC).

The Geneva based particle physics research centre is proposing an accelerator that is almost four times longer and ten times more powerful.

The aim is to have the FCC hunting for new sub-atomic particles by 2050.

Critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change.

But Cern’s Director-General, Prof Fabiola Gianotti described the proposal as “a remarkable accomplishment”.

“It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society,” she said.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Keiichi Matsuda’s Merger on Vimeo:

With automation disrupting centuries-old industries, the professional must reshape and expand their service to add value. Failure is a mindset. It is those who empower themselves with technology who will thrive.

Merger is a new film about the future of work, from cult director/designer Keiichi Matsuda (HYPER-REALITY). Set against the backdrop of AI-run corporations, a tele-operator finds herself caught between virtual and physical reality, human and machine. As she fights for her economic survival, she finds herself immersed in the cult of productivity, in search of the ultimate interface. This short film documents her last 4 minutes on earth.

[Thanks to Susan de Guardiola, Colleen McMahon, Michael J. Walsh, Jim Meadows, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Paul DiFilippo, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, BravoLimaPoppa3, Rich Horton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steve Davidson, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/19 I Wept Because I Had No Scrolls, Until I Met A Man With No Pixels

(1) UK COMICS FANDOM HISTORY RESOURCES. Rob Hansen has added a section to his UK fanhistory website about how SF fandom provided a breeding ground there for comics fandom. “There are photos and, of course, a multitude of links — both in the body of the article and at the end —  that may be of interest, as well as a piece by Ron Bennett on sourcing old comics in Singapore back in the day that I don’t think many in our fandom would’ve seen before” — “Comics Fandom: First Stirrings”.

There used to be a saying in science fiction fandom that “it’s a proud and lonely thing to be a fan”, and for those who imagined themselves the only fan in their location it could be lonely indeed. The birth of the first SF fan groups in the 1930s gradually changed that, but what of comics fans? There’s enough of an overlap in interest between the two that SF fandom offered them a home, but it still wasn’t comics fandom.

When the 23 year old Brian Lewis went along to the inaugural meeting of his local group, the Medway Science Fiction Fan Club, on Thursday 28th August 1952 he soon became a valued member, contributing artwork to its clubzine THE MEDWAY JOURNAL. Before the end of the decade he would begin working as a professional comic artist, so had there been a comics fandom in 1952 it’s possible Lewis might have sought that out instead. But it was to be another decade before comics fandom in these islands began slowly stirring to life.

(2) WEIRD CITY TRAILER. A glimpse of a newly available YouTube Original —

From the mind of Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders comes WEIRD CITY, a satirical anthology set in the not-too-distant future metropolis of Weird. In this dystopian setting of our show, the middle class has completely vanished dividing Weird City into two sections: Above the Line (The Haves), and Below the Line (The Have Nots). Presiding over the denizens of the city is the strange and mysterious Dr. Negari, who weaves all of our stories together. Each episode is a topic that pertains to present day life in America and the world: social media addiction, online dating, fitness obsession, etc.. WEIRD CITY captures the unease of modern urban living, in a bizarre and peculiar lens.

(3) MCGUIRE CLASS. Cat Rambo tweeted highlights from the online writing class taught by Seanan McGuire: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Writing In Your Own Worlds”.

(4) NOT A MASTERPIECE. Galactic Journey’s John Boston finds the new (in 1964) novel by John Brunner isn’t up to snuff: “[January 12, 1964] SINKING OUT OF SIGHT (the February 1964 Amazing)”.

The blurb for the lead story in the February 1964 Amazing says: “Once every few years a science fiction story comes along which poses—and probes—philosophical questions: for instance: What is life that Man must live it?  In a novel rich in incident, fascinating of character, John Brunner questions the essential meaning of life and death and purpose.”

That’s the pitch for Brunner’s 74-page “complete novel” The Bridge to Azrael.  The last time we saw such an editorial panegyric, the mountain labored and brought forth—well, not a mouse.  A capybara, maybe.  Anyway, a modestly capable pulp-inflected novella, Daniel F. Galouye’s Recovery Area, not exactly the promised philosophical masterpiece for the ages.  Sort of the same here, but worse: the mountain has labored and brought forth a mess.

(5) WHERE’S THE BEEF? On Facebook, Steven Barnes made an insightful comment about the working of history:

I suspect that at some point, we’ll have a meat substitute that has all the values of the real thing. About a generation after that, people will be claiming cows were pets. and a generation after that, there will be debates about what kind of utter monsters meat eaters could possibly have been.

(6) KENYON UPDATE. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s newsletter tells readers some of her books have been rescheduled at the same time her 28-year marriage is ending:

…Due to a number of events that are out of my hands and with the heaviest heart, I have to announce that Tor has decided to move several books this year, including At Death’s Door which will come out in the usual Dark-Hunter slot in September. Delaying the final Deadman’s Cross novel and moving the next Dark-Hunter title to 2020 was not something I wanted or had control over, and I know many fans will be greatly disappointed. Believe me, no one is more disappointed about this than I am, and since honesty, integrity, and transparency run thick in my DNA, I wanted to let all of you know what’s going on since there have been so many false rumors running loose lately. As many of you know, the last several years have been a very challenging and daunting time for me – both emotionally and physically.

There were so many great things that happened last year. We launched two wonderful books – Death Doesn’t Bargain and Stygian – to such great fan reception, making lists and news, and I spent a lot of 2018 on the road visiting with readers at major events and conventions across the U.S. Something I intend to do this year as well, and to go abroad to England, Australia and Portugal.

But it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses as I’m coping with the dissolution of my twenty-eight year marriage to a man I made the mistake of putting through law school by working three jobs so that he wouldn’t have to work any while he studied. A man who is now turning the skills I paid for against me as he ruthlessly lies about me and fights me for *MY* copyrights to characters, series and worlds that I had long before I ever met him (something he has admitted to on record time and again) and to books he knows he never helped to write or plot because he forbid me to even talk about my writing in front of him….

(7) SPACE ART CHALLENGE. ArtStation introduces Adobe’s space-themed art contest: “Adobe Dimension From the Moon to Mars—Apollo 50th Anniversary Challenge!”

For six decades, NASA has led the peaceful exploration of space, making discoveries about our planet, our solar system, and our universe. From October 2018 through December 2022, NASA will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Program that landed a dozen astronauts on the Moon between July 1969 and December 1972 and NASA’s first crewed mission – Apollo 8 – that circumnavigated the Moon in December 1968.

Adobe is challenging you to imagine the history and future of human exploration in space to celebrate this momentous anniversary and the release of Adobe Dimension 2.1. We’re calling on you to tell the stories of past and future space missions using free 3D assets from the Adobe 3D Stock “NASA: 60th Anniversary 3D Celebration” gallery and Adobe Dimension to compose and render a space-based scene following the challenge theme: From the Moon to Mars—Apollo 50th Anniversary.

Special guest judge former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, a veteran of four missions to the International Space Station and the astronaut who painted the first watercolor in space, will judge the submissions with the Adobe Dimension team. 

Challenge Requirements

Your challenge is to create a visually compelling scene using at least one 3D asset inspired by NASA and optimized for Dimension that celebrates NASA’s ongoing mission to pioneer the future of space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. Whether it’s the Apollo moon landings, or future initiatives to the moon and beyond, we want to feel the wonder and pioneering spirit of the astronauts and the vehicles that take them there. You’ll also be required to composite and render your submission using Adobe Dimension 2.1, but any other software (Pixologic ZBrush, Substance Painter, Adobe Photoshop, etc.) can be used to create elements for your scene.

IMPORTANT: The final work must be submitted as a digital image. You can use any 2D, 3D techniques as long as you 1) include 1 asset from the Adobe 3D Stock “NASA: 60th Anniversary 3D Celebration gallery and 2) render the final scene in Adobe Dimension.

(8) CHOOSE YOUR OWN LAWSUIT. NBC News reports “Netflix sued by ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book publisher over ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’“.

The publisher of the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” books is suing Netflix, claiming the streaming service infringed on its trademarked format for the new film “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.”

Chooseco, which was formed in 2004 to re-release several classic titles of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books originally published in the 1980s and 1990s, announced the suit on Friday.

“We have received an unprecedented amount of outreach from people who believed we were associated with the creation of this film, including parents who were concerned that we had aligned the CYOA brand they knew and loved with content that surprised and offended them,” Shannon Gilligan, co-founder and publisher of Chooseco, said in a statement.

(9) GENERAL LEE. io9/Gizmodo alerts viewers — “PSA: Stan Lee’s Last Animated Appearance Will Be Airing This Sunday”.

The late comics legend’s final animated cameo will be on Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest, airing this Sunday. 

When Lee passed in November, we knew that he had some cameos already recorded, and now his final one in the world of animation is preparing to air. According to Marvel.com, he’ll be playing an important but brief role in an episode of the Disney XD Black Panther series. In the episode, titled “T’Chanda”, T’Challa will learn secrets about his grandfather. During that learning experience, Lee will appear in a flashback scene set in the 1940s, where Lee plays an Army General.

(10) ROBERTS OBIT. Worldcon Business Meeting veterans can share a moment of silence after reading this obituary circulated by the American Institute of Parliamentarians.

AIP has learned that Henry Martyn Robert III, passed away on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Maryland. He was 98 years old. 

Henry was the grandson of General Henry M. Robert and the senior member of the authorship team for Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR). He began his association with RONR when he assisted his mother, Sarah Corbin Robert, in writing the 1970 edition, the most extensive general revision of Robert’s Rules. He has been actively involved in every edition since that time. His contributions to the parliamentary world are significant, and he will be missed.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 12, 1940The Invisible Man premiered theatrically.
  • January 12, 1966 — The Batman television series made its debut.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1628 Charles Perrault. He was a French author and member of the Académie Française. He laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from the much earlier folk tales. The best known of his tales include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots),  Cendrillon (Cinderella), La Belle au bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty) and Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard). As such, his stories form many of the roots of fantasy as we do it. (Died 1723.)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 67. An odd one as I  have read his Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue Light, Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent Future, The Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1955 Rockne O’Bannon, 64. Creator of five genre series in Alien NationCultDefianceFarscape and seaQuest. He also help write the Warehouse 13 pilot. He has also written and produced for Constantine, Revolution and V, among many other projects. (I loved Farscape and seaQuest but thought Defiance went bad fast.) 
  • Born January 12, 1957 John Lasseter, 62. Animator fired from Disney for promoting computer animation who joined Lucasfilm which eventually became Pixar under Steve Jobs. And where he directed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Cars and Cars 2. He also Executive Produced Toy Story 3 as well as Zootopia, Finding Dory and Incredibles 2.
  • Born January 12, 1960 Oliver Platt, 59. My favorite role by him is Porthos in The Three Musketeers but his first genre role was as Randy Steckle in Flatlineers and he later played Rupert Burns in the Bicentennial Man film on Asimov’s The Positronic Man. He voices Hades in Wonder Woman, not surprising given his deep voice. 
  • Born January 12, 1970 Kaja Foglio, 49. Writer, artist, and publisher. Foglio co-won the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2009 for the absolutely stunning Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, and co-won two more Hugo Awards the following years. Having won three three years running, they removed themselves from further competition.  If you haven’t read them, you’re in for treat as they’re quite amazing. Her husband Phil Foglio and colorist Cheyenne Wright do stunning work.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) CUTE REFERENCE. The Atlantic’s article “The Fellowship of the Ring Finders” tells about “A website connects people who have misplaced their rings with metal detectorists who know where to look.”

Usually, stories of this variety almost always end in tears. Yet these three people found their lost rings, frantically Googling some iteration of I lost my wedding ring and stumbling upon a network of metal detectorists who help people locate their misplaced jewelry. They had found their way to the Ring Finders, a service that pairs these people with one of 430 sleuths stationed around the world.

According to the British insurance company Protect Your Bubble, 11 percent of people have lost their wedding rings in the past five years. Since wedding rings can cost upwards of $6,000, losing them can be especially painful for couples, and yet it also gives detectives adept in the art of finding lost rings a chance to intervene and be the hero.

Probably a good thing this service wasn’t available to Sauron during the Third Age of Middle-Earth!

(15) CUTBACK. News that “SpaceX To Lay Off 10 Percent Of Its Workforce” comes surprisingly soon after they’d just finished replacing the Iridium telephone satellites.

SpaceX, the pioneering space technology company led by Elon Musk, will lay off about 10 percent of its more than 6,000 employees.

The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement, a company spokesman confirmed the layoff without specifying how many employees will be released.

(16) DOCTOR RUNS UP AGAINST BREXIT. Fansided asks: “Doctor Who: UNIT’s suspension – a move too far?”

One of the most controversial moments in New Year’s Day special Resolution was the suspension of UNIT. Was the removal of a major part of Doctor Who a step too far for Chris Chibnall?

Perhaps the most significant scene in Resolution was when the Doctor tried to call her friends at UNIT. Instead of reaching Kate Stewart and an organization that she’s fought alongside with for decades, she was instead forwarded to Polly at the “UK Security Helpline”.  This was when the Doctor (and the fans) were given a bit of a shock when Polly informed her:

UNIT operations have been suspended pending review.

That’s right. For the moment, at least, UNIT isn’t around to help the Doctor save the day. The reason? Well, officially, it’s because funding was withdrawn from international partners. The implied reason? Brexit. Brexit killed UNIT, or at the very least, put it into deep sleep. At least, according to Chris Chibnall.

(17) WHO SCRIPTS. Io9’s Julie Muncy learned how you can “Pass the Weekend with the BBC’s Backlog of Doctor Who Screenplays”

…it turns out the BBC Writer’s Room website features an extensive backlog of screenplays for BBC shows. Their latest post is the first episode of this past season of Doctor Who, featuring the debut of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

(18) A HOLE IN SPACE. National Geographic thinks “Astronomers may have finally seen a star become a black hole”.

As dinosaurs stomped across ancient Earth more than 200 million years ago, a massive star was entering its death throes. The resulting cosmic explosion was so unusual, it left astronomers scratching their heads when its glow at last reached our planet last June.

Now, the mysterious flash may have an origin story. Based on the latest observations of the strange supernova, nicknamed the Cow, a team of 45 astronomers argues that it may represent the first time humans have captured the exact moment a dying star gave birth to a black hole.

(19) GLEANING THE STARFIELDS. NBC News tells how “Citizen scientists discover strange new world that pro astronomers missed”.

With help from a dead spacecraft [2015 Kepler data], citizen scientists just discovered an alien world that professional astronomers had overlooked.

The newfound exoplanet orbits a small red star 226 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Taurus. Roughly twice as big as Earth, K2-288Bb circles its host star in the so-called habitable zone, where liquid water and possibly life could exist.

[…] Scientists are excited about K2-288Bb not only because of the possibility that it could support life, but also because it’s unlike anything in our solar system: a solitary, midsize planet circling a star that has a nearby stellar companion.

(20) STAR TREK LINKAGE. IGN analyzes the implied promise: “Star Trek: Explaining the Picard Show’s Timeline and How It Connects to the J.J. Abrams Movies”.

Many Star Trek fans are psyched that Patrick Stewart is returning to the role of Captain Picard for an all-new TV series on CBS All Access. And while story details on the show have been scarce, we do know that it will be about the legendary character exploring the next chapter of his life some 20 years after we last saw him in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis.

But a recent interview with Star Trek executive producer Alex Kurtzman has revealed some interesting hints about the Picard show, even while it’s gotten some folks confused about which timeline it takes place in. Let’s nerdsplain this thing!

[…there follows much exposition, concluding with…]

So while the Picard show will take place in the traditional Prime Timeline, the producers have found a clever way to connect it to the events of the modern movies. The series is expected to debut in late 2019.

(21) LITTLEFINGER, DEAD OR ALIVE? Carl Slaughter says, “Intriguing theory.  Lots of clues.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, James Davis Nicoll, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 11/23/18 Have Fun Scrolling The Pixel!

(1) REAL LIFE RULES. Aliette de Bodard has come forward with her own rules for writing. Thread starts here.

(2) TOM BAKER WRITES DOCTOR WHO NOVEL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RadioTimes.com tells us that “Tom Baker has written a brand-new Doctor Who novel” based on a script idea he and Ian Marter had during the Fourth Doctor era. The book will be published by BBC Books (in the Penguin Random House family) with a publication date of January 24, 2019. It is already available for pre-order.

Just over a year after he made an unexpected comeback as the Fourth Doctor in a Doctor Who DVD project, iconic star Tom Baker has made another surprise return to the world of the BBC sci-fi series by penning a new novel starring the Time Lord.

Called Scratchman, the book began life in the 1970s during Baker’s tenure as the beloved Fourth Doctor, when between scenes he kicked around ideas for a new story for the series alongside Ian Marter (who played Harry Sullivan in Doctor Who), later writing them up into a script.

Gizmodo/io9 also chimes in on the book (“Tom Baker Is Turning His Wild Idea For a Doctor Who Movie Into a Novel”):

Back in the ‘70s, Tom Baker and Ian Marter—who played the Fourth Doctor’s companion Harry Sullivan—had a truly bonkers idea for a Doctor Who movie. They even wrote a script for it, but it never got made. Now, Baker himself is taking what could’ve been and turning it into a new novel.

The official synopsis of the novel has been made available:

What are you afraid of?

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travellers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them.

With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil.

Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

(3) GOT TO READ. It’s time for “6 Books with Sarah Chorn” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?I’ve had a bit of a hankering to re-read K.J. Parker’s Engineer Trilogy recently. Parker is one of my all-time favorite authors. I love his prose, how he plays with words, and how smart his books are. The Engineer Trilogy were my first Parker books I came across, and I fell in love with them. I haven’t read them for some time, but I’ve got an itch for some smart, morally gray characters and he seems to fit the bill.

(4) STRAIGHT FROM WALTER CRONKITE. Yesterday Galactic Journey, which follows the history of the field day-by-day 55 years in the past, reached November 22, 1963 and the assassination of President Kennedy. Its contributors did a series of reaction posts, beginning with “[November 22, 1963] President Kennedy has been assassinated]”.

(5) THE GAME OF SOCIAL LIFE. “The Black Mirror Episode ‘Nosedive’ Has Become A Board Game” and ScienceFiction.com explains how it works.

Fans of ‘Black Mirror‘ now have a new way to enjoy the show with their friends in the form of a board game! The social media nightmare is known as “Nosedive” is now something you can experience first hand with your friends! If you don’t remember the episode off the top of your head it was a satire of social media which had Bryce Dallas Howard as Lacie in the third season premiere episode. The goal of the board game is just like that of the episode, to “get the highest Social Score possible” but here you’ll be competing with 3-6 players.

In the game, you’ll be collecting Lifestyle cards to try and create a perfect life. It isn’t all going to be luck though as your competitors will be rating their experiences in a way that can have an impact on your social score. You’ll also all need to have your smartphones handy in a gameplay element that requires you to download the app to play.

(6) A HUNK OF BURNING. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant, after reading about fire-devastated Paradise, California, outlines “A lesson re-learned from disaster”.

I’ve been taking the time to read reports of how computer and document backups were, or were not, adequate to safeguard important records during and after the fire.  Most of the reports are dismal, to say the least.  From online conversations and other sources, here are just some of the incidents that have been discussed:

  • Computer data backed up on thumb drives, stored in a “fireproof” box, were indeed protected from the flames;  but the heat inside the box rose so high that the drives simply melted, becoming unusable.
  • Documents in a similarly “fireproof” file container were charred into unrecognizable black ash, even though the container remained nominally intact.
  • In many cases, fireproof safes and filing cabinets were badly warped by the heat, rendering them incapable of opening.  Many people have not yet been able to return home to see what survived the flames, but some who have claim that they had to use angle grinders with cutting wheels, the “jaws of life“, or other heavy-duty equipment to open them….

(7) THIS LAND IS HERLAND. Adri Joy’s commentary is a very good survey of the topic, though members of the patriarchy should be sure to fasten their seatbelts — “Feminist Futures: Feminist Separatism in Science Fiction” at Nerds of a Feather

Content Warning: This essay tackles multiple texts which conflate sex and gender, and erase trans and intersex people.

Men, eh. What a mess they make. What a bother it is, to have this whole category of people on the planet who march around like they own the place yet mess it up at every opportunity, can’t change a baby, can’t do their own laundry, can’t even get in touch with their own emotions unless it involves some form of anger or violence. What trouble they cause for the rest of us – especially if you fit into that other big category of “women”. Why, wouldn’t it just be better if they weren’t around us any more? Wouldn’t it make our lives, those of us in that other big category of “women”, just so much easier and safer and nicer if we could put that category of “men” to one side, to do whatever it is they are compelled to do without getting in our way. Wouldn’t that be lovely. If only it were possible.

Fear not, beleaguered sufferer of the patriarchy: feminist speculative fiction has got your back. As long as you are from the category of “women”. And were recognised as such when you were born….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first aired on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 23, 1887 – Boris Karloff, Actor famous for horror movies, whose real name was William Henry Pratt. His first genre role was when he portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Frankenstein, a part which he played twice more, in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Without listing all of his genre roles, I will single out his superb work as Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu, which benefited from being pre-Hayes-code, and as Baron Victor von Frankenstein in the 1970 Frankenstein, which is terribly campy. His greatest role is no doubt as The Narrator in How the Grinch Stole Christmas – indeed, he received a Grammy Award in the Spoken Word category for the album, which Is the only major performing award of his career! (Died 1969.)
  • November 23, 1908 – Nelson S. Bond, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Member of First Fandom who also wrote for radio, television, and the stage, but whose published fiction work was mainly in the pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. He’s remembered today mainly for his Lancelot Biggs series and for his Meg the Priestess tales, which introduced one of the first strong female characters in SF back in 1939. As a fan, he attended the very first Worldcon, and he famously advised Isaac Asimov, who kept arguing with fans about his works in the letter columns of magazines, “You’re a writer now, Isaac. Let the readers have their opinions.” He was named a Nebula Author Emeritus by SFWA in 1998. (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker, Movie Projectionist and Theater Technician, Writer, and Member of First Fandom. He became involved in fandom in 1932, publishing two fanzines: The Planetoid, and, from 1938 to 2001, Le Zombie, which lasted for more than 60 issues over the course of 60+ years, and was later revived as a webzine, and won a Retro Hugo in 2018. (The title came from the fact that, on several occasions, false reports of his death were made). He also won a Hugo and a Retro Hugo as Best Fan Writer. In 1941, Tucker’s first professional short story, “Interstellar Way Station”, was published by Frederik Pohl in the May issue of Super Science Stories. His most productive period for fiction was in the early 1940s and early 1950s, when he published around 20 short works; during the latter part of that period, he also produced several novels. His most well-known novel is considered to be be The Year of the Quiet Sun; it was a finalist for the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, and later received a special retrospective Campbell Memorial Award. From 1955 to 1996, he was responsible for eight separate editions of The Neo-Fan’s Guide To Science Fiction Fandom, which covered the first five decades of fandom and the evolution of fan slang; the eighth and final edition remains in print under the auspices of the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. He was honored with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, two Phoenix Awards, and a special Nebula Author Emeritus Award. He is credited with creating the term “space opera”, and his custom of using the names of friends for minor characters in his fiction led to the term ”Tuckerization”. (And yes, I’ve been been tuckerized: you’ll find a Cat Eldridge, an ethnomusicologist, in Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen, which is the conclusion to her Great Alta Trilogy. I found her a folklore book she wanted, and that was my reward.) (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1916 – Michael Gough, Actor from England who is best known for his roles in Hammer Horror Films from the late 1950s, and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series from 1989 to 1997. Hammer usually cast him as the evil villain, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse, Horror Hospital, and Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared on Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” in 1966, and again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” in 1983. In the mid 1960s, he also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers, returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. A favorite of Burton’s, his last roles were in Sleepy Hollow and as character voices in Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland. (Died 2011.)
  • November 23, 1955 – Steven Brust, 63, Writer of Hungarian descent, something that figures into his fiction, which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his series of novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? The Dragearan prequel Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing – scathing! – review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille; he told us at Green Man Review that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity, with Emma Bull, is decidedly different but good nonetheless, and his unofficial Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to the characters in that series. He’s quite the musician too, with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics), and others. The band, in turn, shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album, and he says “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, “Songs From The Gypsy is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • November 23, 1951 – David Rappaport, Actor from England. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically-inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing of a genre nature for which he’ll be remembered, having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them, such as The Bride, a low-budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits.
  • November 23, 1966 – Michelle Gomez, 52, Actor from Scotland who is best known to genre fans as Missy, a female version of The Master, on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit, having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master, that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used to, but she made a fine one. Other guest roles were in episodes of Gotham and the short-lived spinoff Highlander: The Raven. She is currently playing a main role as Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
  • November 23, 1967 – Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 51, Actor, Director, and Producer whose best-known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka (which is apparently in syndication now as A Town Called Eureka… H’h?). Her first genre roles were in the fantasy film Prelude to a Kiss and in the “Second Sight” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but she also charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Other appearances included parts in episodes of Stargate SG-1, The Pretender, and the short-lived Secret Agent Man. She had a main role as Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that, against all odds, lasted through three seasons. Her most recent work has included directing episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage, and Black Lightning.
  • November 23, 1970 – Oded Fehr, 48, Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: Apocalypse, Extinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, Stitchers, V, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars, which just premiered in September. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LAST NIGHT ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter had his eye on the tube:

  • Answer: Roger Ebert: This film “works as science fiction, it’s sometimes as scary as a monster movie & at the end…not a dry eye in the house.”
  • Wrong questions: “What is “2001”? What is “Alien”?
  • Correct response: What is “E.T.”?

(13) #NOTME. New research says “Humans ‘off the hook’ for African mammal extinction”, contradicting theories that we ate them…

Today, only elephants, hippos, giraffes and white and black rhinos fall into this category.

But the three-million-year-old human relative “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) shared her East African habitat with three species of giraffe, two species of rhino, a hippo and four elephant-like species.

The results of the analysis showed that over the last seven million years, some 28 lineages of large mammal went extinct in Africa.

Furthermore, the onset of the herbivore decline began roughly 4.6 million years ago, and the rate of decline did not change following the appearance of Homo erectus, one of the earliest human ancestors that could have contributed to the extinctions.

(14) THE MARS SHOW. Here’s your reminder that the next Mars lander is scheduled to touch down Monday and you can watch it “live” (Vox: “NASA is landing InSight, a robot geologist, on Mars”). The current time delay for radio communications from Mars to Earth is about 8 minutes, so “live” will be delayed by at least that long.

A major feat of interplanetary space travel is about to take place on Monday, November 26. That’s when NASA’s InSight lander is expected to land on Mars and begin its two-year study of our neighboring planet’s core. It will be the first NASA Mars landing since the Curiosity rover touched down in 2012.

The lander is expected to touch Mars around 3 pm Eastern time, and you can watch the live stream in the NASA link below. But because it’s so far away, NASA’s mission scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California won’t get to pilot it. Their radio transitions to the lander are delayed by several minutes. Like the Curiosity rover, InSight will have to land itself in only 6.5 minutes.

The live programming from NASA TV will begin at 2 pm Eastern Monday.

(15) VESS AND GAIMAN. Titan Comics has issued Charles Vess’ Book of Ballads and Sagas

Beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess and featuring adaptations by Neil Gaiman – Vess’ collaborator on the hugely successful Stardust – and a host of famous fantasy writers, this new edition also boasts never-before-seen art and an amazing gallery of sketches!

(16) VIEW FROM THE ISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The European Space Agency has posted a time-lapse video—taken from the ISS—showing a Russian Progress capsule loaded with supplies for the ISS rising above the limb of the Earth as background stars arc behind it. You can even see what appears to be the blazing reentry of one of the rocket stages. (Motherboard: “Watch a Spaceship Leave Earth in Stunning ISS Video”)

This is an especially significant launch since it uses essential the same rocket stack as the crewed Soyuz launch that aborted earlier this year and the Progress launch took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome, also the same as the Soyuz. This, then, would appear to represent concrete progress toward getting a new Soyuz launch off in time to relieve the current ISS crew.

We’re so used to seeing perfectly-rendered CGI depictions of outer space in movies and video games that seeing the real thing can sometimes feel underwhelming. This is not one of those times.

On Thursday, the European Space Agency (ESA) published a video taken from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Alexander Gerst. The video shows time-lapse footage of the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft that launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 16. The footage is almost unbelievable as it shows the spacecraft, on a resupply mission to the ISS, arcing into orbit. The camera pans slowly and follows the unmanned Russian craft, revealing Earth’s curvature in epic scale.

 

(17) SATANIC SETTLEMENT. The New York Times reports the infringement suit is over: “Satanic Temple Settles Lawsuit Over Goat-Headed Statue in ‘Sabrina’”.

The Satanic Temple said on Wednesday that it had settled its lawsuit accusing Warner Bros. and Netflix of copying the temple’s goat-headed statue in their new “Sabrina” series.

The lawsuit was “amicably settled,” Lucien Greaves, a co-founder of the temple, wrote in a blog post on the Patheos religion-themed website.

The temple will be acknowledged in the credits for episodes of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” that have already been filmed, Mr. Greaves wrote. The rest of the settlement, including details on what will happen in future episodes of the show, is confidential, according to Bruce Lederman, the temple’s lawyer.

(18) TIME MARCHES BACKWARDS. As a trufannish site we try not to discuss science fiction here but sometimes it creeps in. Like when Camestros Felapton explains that “I thought of a different form of time travel”. It started when he was reading Gregory Benford’s Timescape.

… That message from the future got me thinking. Practically there’s obviously no way to send an electrical signal down a wire into the past (i.e. this I’m engaging with fiction here not an actual proposal). I suppose that information arriving at a destination before it left its starting point violates the speed of light but looked at just in terms of distance traveled over elapsed time it doesn’t….

(19) USE CASE. Nothing could possibly go wrong with an AI being developed to run planetary outposts and assist astronauts, right? (Space.com: “This HAL 9000-Inspired AI Simulation Kept Its Virtual Astronauts Alive”; paywalled source material at Science Robotics: “CASE: A HAL 9000 for 2021“) CASE (“cognitive architecture for space agents”)—developed by Pete Bonasso, et al., at TRACLabs Inc.—has already run a simulated planetary base and is moving along to testing on analogs.

“Our colleagues and NASA counterparts are not concerned that our HAL might get out of control,” Bonasso told Space.com. “That’s because it can’t do anything it’s not programmed to do.”

In experiments, CASE managed a simulated planetary base for about 4 hours. However, the researchers stressed more work is needed before it can run an actual base.

Moreover, “though CASE is impressive, it’s not the fully realized HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ nor is it Lt. Commander Data from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,'” Bonasso said. “Its capability is very narrow, focused on events occurring on a planetary base. While it can keep the life support systems running, it has no idea who won the last presidential election.”

The scientists are now working with what NASA calls analogs — places where volunteers pretend they are living on a distant world. In the long term, the aim is to incorporate CASE into the analogs to see how the software can help improve future space expeditions.

(20) TWO GUYS IN THE CAST. Patrick Stewart makes a great anecdote from the gaffes he committed the first time he met Sting.

Patrick Stewart explains how he really had no idea who Sting was when meeting him on set on David Lynch’s Dune.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]